UP Coalition Network

Social Development Strategy

About the Social Development Strategy

Protective factors buffer against risk by either reducing the impact of risk factors or changing the way youth respond to them. Communities That Care (CTC) organizes protective factors into a useable strategy called the Social Development Strategy. Most people are already using aspects of the Social Development Strategy when interacting with youth, but by utilizing these techniques consciously and consistently, there is a greater chance of having a positive impact on young people and even adults.

Social Dev. StrategyThe Social Development Strategy has five components:

  • Opportunities
  • Skills
  • Recognition
  • Bonding
  • Healthy standards

Suggestions for implementing the strategy:

  • Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles can use it with their children.
  • Teachers, paraprofessionals, and professors can use it with students in school/college settings.
  • Employers can use it with employees to promote bonding with their employer and adherence to the employer’s standards for behavior.

The Science Behind the Social Development Strategy

In a research project that followed 808 ten-year-olds for more than 15 years, the Social Development Strategy was proven successful. When parents and elementary teachers were provided training in how to use the Social Development Strategy during the elementary grades, 15 years later their children had better outcomes than those who did not receive the training. Positive youth outcomes include: a greater percentage of students who graduated high school on time, better economic outcomes, better mental health in their 20’s, significantly fewer sexually transmitted diseases — especially among those at greatest risk, and fewer teen pregnancies.

Opportunities, Skills, and Recognition

The first aspect of the strategy is to provide developmentally appropriate opportunities to young people for active participation and meaningful interaction with healthy individuals. Second, teach young people meaningful skills to help them succeed. Finally, provide consistent specific praise and recognition for effort, improvement, and achievement.


By providing opportunities, skills, and recognition, you promote positive bonding — a sense of attachment, emotional connection, and commitment to the people and groups who provide that recognition. Bonding can occur with a family member, teacher, coach, employer, or neighbor.

Healthy Standards for Behavior

Through the process of bonding, young people become motivated to live according to the standards for behavior of the person or group to whom they are bonded. This is perhaps the most important aspect of the Social Development Strategy. If a young person bonds to someone with healthy behaviors, they will be more likely to model the healthy behavior—but they will also model unhealthy behavior, if that is what they see. For instance, gangs utilize these same techniques to bond youth to their group, and in the end young people involved in gangs exhibit violent and delinquent behavior that is in alignment with gang values. So whenever possible, it’s important to provide a positive example through healthy actions and/or words.

Contact your local CTC Coordinator for more information or to schedule a training.

You can find more information about the Social Development Strategy at here.

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